Cruise Reviews are confounding because the reviewers react differently to the exact same experience, but then tell you more about their reaction, less about the experience.
This guide will tell you and show you what the experience is, so you can decide for yourself whether you will like it or not.
For example, we won't just complain about the Horizon Buffet's food; we will show you the food. Similarly, we will show you how some of the more obscure and less discussed systems on the ship work, such as the laundry, the ventilation, the dining halls, the beverages, tendering, muster drill, and the Princess Patter -- and always with photos.
I was a first-time cruiser on the Crown Princess in July 2018, so I have a fresh memory of what I wished I had known but couldn't figure out in advance.
And that's what you will find here.
Although I had a great time and I loved the Crown Princess, I will probably try a different line next time. Below you will discover the good and the bad.
Getting on the ship is a cross between checking into a hotel and crossing an international border. We embarked at Berth 12 in Athens' Piraeus Port -- which is not easily accessible on foot; best to take a cab -- but that is the port these photos are from.
We were invited to check in any time from 1pm-4pm. Here is what we saw when we arrived at Berth 12:
The first thing you do is check your luggage. If you have printed your luggage tags in advance, they will staple them on, and take your bags. The bags will magically appear outside your state room door in a few hours. You don't have to check your bags if you just have carry-on-sized luggage, but checking bags is fast, free, and easy, and gives you one less thing to think about while you find your way around the ship.
PRO TIP: You'll need your passport to board, so make sure it's not in your checked suitcase!
Next you get to go through this door into the checkout lounge, which at Piraeus in Athens is a giant tent. There, you will be assigned a number, and you get to wait until your number is called.
This looks a little Spartan for the prelude to a luxury cruise, but the room is spacious and air conditioned, with seats and water. If you have endured any ordeal at all in your transfer to the port, it is a pleasant enough place to rest a moment and gather your thoughts before being called to the ship.
Next stop is where you show your passport and boarding pass and credit card. In exchange, they take your photo and give you the magic blue card that not only opens your stateroom door, but is also used for all onboard purchases, every beverage transaction, and gets you on and off the ship. When the Crown Princess upgrades to Medallion Service later in 2018, some of these transactions will be more streamlined or less frictionless, but the general principle will be the same.
There is also security somewhere in here, like in airports, where worldly goods will be X-rayed, and metal will be detected. The process is less hectic than these photos might suggest -- we went straight to our window -- and it took only a few minutes.
And then we were out in the sunlight and free to board. Instead, we took a few moments to admire the ship. Three decks are under water. Deck 4 is where you enter, and then there are ten full decks above that.
As soon as you cross the gangway there is an ambush mandatory group photo against a green screen. When they offer to sell you the photo, it will look like it was taken outdoors on the ship on a beautiful day, with souvenir-like frame elements:
The week before our trip, Princess emailed me a chance to buy the "Ultimate Photo Package" for $200 instead of $250, which was a tough sell not only because it was still $200, but also because it was not in any way clear what the $200 was buying. We'll go over the details in our chapter on shipboard scams, but this is the kind of thing you would be buying.
The Horizon Buffet
The Dining Halls
9. The Scams
Fine Art Auction
See also our review of the MSC Grandiosa
YOU MIGHT NEED...
A Kindle is a great idea for sea days -- you'll see Kindles all over the ship. But make sure you load it up before you go on board, because WiFi is not great.